Orange Blossom-Tobacco Alcohol-Based Perfume

This is the alcohol-based version of the perfume Chameleon from Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant. I’ve been doing a bit of a “Julie & Julia” thing, blending along with Mandy’s recipes as a beginner’s way to leap into the world of artisanal perfume.

It’s been a fun and funny ride so far. Just pushing forward has already made me bark my shins against problems like: figuring out where to source quality oils, how to measure incredibly sticky impossible-to-work-with absolutes, how to clean glass eyedroppers, and what to do when you accidentally touch your nose with cinnamon bark EO (ow!).

Mandy’s style is nonchalant and does not advertise challenges, so I tend to just stumble upon them and faceplant. Best way to learn! So here I am at Chameleon.

When sourcing the raw materials for the perfume, I overlooked this key paragraph, which is the entire point of Chameleon, and how it earns its name with a nod to transformation:

If you have the materials, you can also explore the effects of a couple of animal essences. After you have completed the perfume, divide it equally among four tiny bottles. Add a drop of ambergris to one bottle, half a drop of costus (dip a toothpick) to the second bottle, and a drop of hyraceum to the third bottle; leave the fourth bottle as is. Smell the four bottles and note the differences between them. Repeat after an hour, four hours, a day, and a week. – Mandy Aftel, Fragrant

Whoops! I should have sourced: costus, hyraceum, and ambergris. Not an easy task. Animalics can be a challenge to find. And more than that: To use ambergris, I actually have to purchase it (expensive!), grind it up, and create a tincture at 10% that takes ~6 mos to mature. (Hear that? That is the sound of me very quietly beating my head against my desk.)

But you know what Mandy? I accept the challenge. I’ll just need a little time. Meanwhile, here’s how to make the Orange Blossom-Tobacco perfume that becomes Chameleon.

Orange-Blossom Tobacco Perfume Supplies

Supplies for creating Orange Blossom-Tobacco perfume.

Raw Materials*

  • Perfumer’s alcohol
  • Tobacco absolute
  • Vanilla absolute
  • Patchouli essential oil
  • Linalool – a natural isolate from Basil
  • Rose absolute
  • Orange flower absolute
  • Virginia cedarwood essential oil
  • Pink grapefruit essential oil
  • Bitter orange essential oil

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • 10-25 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of rubbing alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Curette (for scooping vanilla absolute out)
  • Stirring rod
  • ½ oz dark glass bottle (for storing perfume)
  • Tiny funnel
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the perfumer’s alcohol to the graduated beaker.
  3. Add the essences one at a time. Start from the base notes (tobacco, vanilla, patchouli) and work your way up to the top notes (cedarwood, grapefruit, bitter orange).
  4. Stir after each addition, and sniff to experience the blend.
  5. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of rubbing alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol.
  6. Using the tiny funnel, pour the finished blend into a small dark glass bottle.
  7. Cap the bottle tightly and shake it to be sure all the ingredients are well mixed. Label it, and store it in a cool, dark place.
  8. Let the blend mature from a week to a month to let the essences marry and create a smooth blend. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
Now that I’ve (mostly) gotten the hang of working with the gooey essences with a curette (I’m looking at you, vanilla), this perfume was relatively straightforward to mix up. But how does it smell? This one is a little more challenging to describe. Unlike some of the other solid/alcohol perfumes – this one smells noticeably different from the Orange Blossom Tobacco Solid Perfume. So far, I’ve let it age only 1 week.

The most obvious difference is the tobacco. The solid perfume is extremely tobacco-forward. This perfume, with its tobacco-vanilla-patchouli base, is more complex and the tobacco is less apparent. The perfume is still very much ABOUT tobacco, but my brain simply doesn’t scream, “Oh hey, that’s tobacco!” Overall, the character of the perfume is intense, woody-earthy, rich and lightly sweet. The orange blossom makes it floral – but it’s a heavy-yet-elegant masculine floral. The green edge to the orange blossom wanders in and out. Sometimes I catch it, sometimes I don’t. The linalool enhances it nicely? (I’m guessing.) Still, this is a perfume that’s about the base notes. The base notes bend the middle floral notes to their will. I get a mental image of a sumptuous men’s club, the old-world kind with deep leather sofas and humidors and a posh dress code. The top notes – cedarwood, grapefruit, and bitter orange – lend the opening a little fruity pizazz, but it’s a very light touch.

Notes on Notes

  • Blond Tobacco Absolute, Nicotinia Tobacum, France, Nicotene-Free, Liberty Naturals – Viscous amber-brown. Clean pipe tobacco. Earthy, dry, only lightly sweet, RICH, thick/powerful.
  • Vanilla Absolute, Eden Botanicals – Vanilla! SWEET. Rich, bitter, dense, boozy. A tar-like chocolate brown.
  • Aged Patchouli, Aftelier -Minty, camphorous, woody, earthy, rooty
  • Linalool Isolate, Ocium basilicum, India, ex. Basil, Liberty Naturals – Pleasant, green, spicy?, peppery, vegetal, clear
  • Rose Absolute, Bulgaria, Rosa damascena, Eden Botanicals – deep red orange liquid, a tomato-soup red. Sweet, floral, rosy, honey, edible, toothsome. Rose has a “rootier” and more vegetal vibe than orange flower or jasmine.
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Eden Botanicals – Love! Honeysuckle, green-white floral, a little sharp, intense, refined, sharp green leading edge
  • Virginia Cedarwood EO, Juniperus Virginiana, USA, Liberty Naturals – Faint, hard to distinguish from paper at first. Then, very woody, peppery, and dry.
  • Pink Grapefruit EO, Citrus Paradisi, USA, Eden Botanicals – happy citrus, sunny, sweet, acid, tart
  • Bitter Orange EO, Citrus Aurantium, Dominican, Liberty Naturals – Citrus, orange with the white pulpy bits. Really straight up ORANGE, but with those bitter bits. The whole orange. Not as tart and green as the grapefruit, but still tart. Really like this orange. It’s interesting.
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Orange Blossom-Tobacco Solid Perfume

In Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant, she calls this perfume “Chameleon,” I think because with the alcohol version we are invited to experiment with it by adding touches of various animalic ingredients. In the solid version, this is a a fairly straight-forward orange blossom-tobacco composition, with pink grapefruit top notes.

Here’s what you need to create Orange Blossom-Tobacco solid perfume:

Supplies for creating orange blossom tobacco solid perfume.

Supplies for creating orange blossom tobacco solid perfume.

Raw Materials*

  • Jojoba oil
  • Grated beeswax
  • Tobacco absolute
  • Orange flower absolute
  • Pink grapefruit essential oil

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • Box grater (for grating beeswax)
  • Measuring spoons (for beeswax)
  • 80 ml lab casserole (for melting beeswax)
  • 10 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Stirring rod
  • Hot plate (can also use stovetop)
  • ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the Jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. Next, measure out each of the essences into the beaker of oil. Tobacco, orange blossom, then grapefruit. Sniff after each addition.
  4. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol.
  5. Measure out the grated beeswax into the lab casserole. Hold the lab casserole over the burner until the wax melts.
  6. Quickly pour the essential oil blend into the liquid wax. Working over the heat, stir the blend into the wax for about 10 seconds until it’s a smooth mixture.
  7. Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Don’t touch it or you’ll burn yourself and/or mess up the nice smooth surface. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
Wow – I’ve got a yes/no response to this one. I looooooove orange blossom so very much, and the absolute is gorgeous. The tobacco provides an interesting, dense and pungent base – but I’m not sure I’m in love with it. Like the Clary Sage in the Mint Vetiver blend, I find the tobacco overpowering. I want to love this, but the tobacco at this intensity pushes me away. Perhaps I’d like it better at a lower concentration. The pink grapefruit is an easy-going and friendly top note, always welcome.

Notes on Notes

  • Blond Tobacco Absolute, Nicotinia Tobacum, France, Nicotene-Free, Liberty Naturals – Viscous amber-brown. Clean pipe tobacco. Earthy, dry, only lightly sweet, RICH, thick/powerful.
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Eden Botanicals – Love! Honeysuckle, green-white floral, a little sharp, intense, refined, sharp green leading edge
  • Pink Grapefruit EO, Citrus Paradisi, USA, Eden Botanicals – happy citrus, sunny, sweet, acid, tart

Zesty Ylang Ylang Solid Perfume

Sexy Curls..

Ylang ylang flower in bloom. “Sexy Curls” by Zaqqy on Flickr.

This morning my daughter begged me, between Saturday morning cartoons, to make her another perfume. So we did. We picked out a few things we thought would smell good – and mixed it up. And it DOES smell good! Like citrus-ylang-ylang-candy, in fact. I made some boo-boos along the way – there were some silly technical errors – but overall, it’s delicious.

So! In the name of science and trying to figure out how to make better blends – and hopefully reproduce this one day minus the technical mistakes – I’ll record what we did.

Raw Materials

  • 8 ml jojoba oil
  • ½ tsp grated beeswax
  • 3 drops vanilla absolute
  • 6 drops benzoin absolute – 50% in alcohol
  • 8 drops rose absolute – I used Bulgarian Rose Damascena
  • 7 drops ylang ylang extra
  • 6 drops pink grapefruit essential oil
  • 3 drops sweet orange essential oil

Equipment

  • Box grater (for grating beeswax)
  • Measuring spoons (for beeswax)
  • 80 ml lab casserole (for melting beeswax)
  • 10 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Curette (for scooping viscous vanilla absolute out of container)
  • Stirring rod
  • Hot plate (can also use stovetop)
  • ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the 8 ml jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. Next, measure out each of the essences into the beaker of oil. Start with the vanilla absolute. Use the curette to scoop out drop-sized blobs of it, and then stir it into the oil. Uh oh, it won’t dissolve! (I thought it would melt with the wax over heat, but it didn’t!) Then use eye droppers to add the rest of the essences (a separate one for each essence).
  4. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol. This will prevent cross-contamination and also dissolve any EOs left on the dropper to make clean up easier.
  5. Once you have your oil blended, switch to working with the beeswax. Measure out ½ tsp of the grated beeswax into the lab casserole.
  6. Hold the lab casserole full of grated wax over the burner until the wax melts. You don’t want to burn it, so keep the temperature at “medium” or lower.
  7. When all the wax has melted, quickly pour the essential oil blend into the liquid wax. Stir the blend into the wax for about 10 seconds until it’s a smooth mixture. (Or, in this case, until everything blends except the vanilla and benzoin.)
  8. Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Finis!

Mistakes were made… But how does it smell?
So how does it smell? Well, like ylang-ylang, except much better 🙂  My daughter loves it. This is a candy-sweet ylang-ylang with a sunny citrus top note and an ever-so-slightly rosy middle. Great tenacity for a solid perfume, too.

For comparison, I made a “just ylang-ylang” solid perfume with 30 drops ylang-ylang extra and the same amounts of jojoba oil and beeswax. It’s nowhere near so nice! Ylang ylang by itself smells sweet but a little thin with a sharp edge in the beginning – even a very high quality ylang ylang extra EO. It mellows as it dries down, but the first opening notes can be off-putting when it’s by itself. Adding the rose gave it a nice round body and feeling of “plumpness” in the middle, and the sweet orange and pink grapefruit give it a sunny, smiling disposition and mask that sharpness.

This is one happy perfume! From an aromatherapy perspective, ylang-ylang and rose are excellent for chasing the blues away, and sweet orange and grapefruit are cheerful and uplifting.

But what about the base notes – the vanilla and benzoin – are they up to anything? I’m not sure I can tell. I wanted to add them for their sweet, grounding, and calming aspect. The perfume is sweet and the tenacity is good, so I think at least SOME made it in. More experimentation needed – and my usage was inexact due to the solubility problems – the vanilla absolute + the benzoin did not dissolve into the jojoba oil. The vanilla should have dissolved (though the mix would have been cloudy) – but I think it got tangled up with the benzoin, which was diluted in oil-insoluable alcohol, and well…neither really got all the way into the blend (I think? Or did they?). There was a lot of vanilla/benzoin residue (dark brown beads of oil) left behind on the beaker and the lab casserole.  So…phooey. That was just foolish. I know better than to try to dissolve alcohol in oil. Doesn’t happen. Maybe next time I can try a vanilla CO2. Not sure what to do about the benzoin. I’ll think of something.

So! Whether this is a perfect blend or not, this turned out to be a sweet, happy, yummy, tenacious citrus-ylang-ylang-rose candy bouquet. PERFECT for my 5 year old client, lol. Perhaps not the most sophisticated thing I’ve ever smelled, but happy and fun. I still want to tinker. Maybe next time I should rough it up a little with lavender or vetiver + patchouli, or somethin’, somethin’…? And I definitely want to work on the solubility issue with the base notes.

Grapefruit Rose Solid Perfume

Ella's Grapefruit RoseMy 5 year-old daughter loved the Bulgarian Rose when we were doing the “Rose sniff test” and asked to make a solid perfume out of it. Why not?

I originally wanted to do something with top, heart, and base notes, but the only scent she liked other than the Bulgarian Rose was Pink Grapefruit. Everything else – from Benzoin to Ylang Ylang – elicited a strong, “Blech. Yuck Mommy!”  Or even, “That one smells like tulips sprayed with skunk powder!”  So! Grapefruit and rose it is. Here’s how we made it.

Ingredients
8 ml Jojoba oil
1/2 tsp grated beeswax
14 drops Bulgarian Rose Absolute
10 drops Pink Grapefruit Essential Oil

Steps

  1. Pour the Jojoba oil into a small beaker.
  2. Add the essential oils to the beaker and stir with a glass stirring rod.
  3. Next, add a heaping 1/2 tsp of grated beeswax to a small lab casserole (or other porcelain or glass container), and melt it over a hot plate or double boiler.
  4. Then pour the oil into the melted wax and stir to combine as quickly as possible. You don’t want to overheat the perfume and burn off the top notes.
  5. Pour the liquid perfume into a 1/2 oz tin or other container. Close it immediately and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to cool before you touch it.

How does it smell?
Sweet, happy, and round, and very rosy. At first it’s hard to detect the grapefruit relative to the rose – they blend together well – but it’s there. I wouldn’t really call it a perfume so much as a “pleasant scent.” My daughter loves it though – and that’s what’s important.

Notes for Next Time
This blend is relatively safe for children – rose and grapefruit are two essential oils that are very kid-safe with positive effects on mood (this is a super happy scent), though I think the concentrations in the solid perfume are a bit high compared to standard aromatherapy dilutions. I’m not too concerned since my daughter just dabs a little on every once in awhile.

Aesthetically, if I were to do this again, I’d add more top notes (since solid perfumes pretty much devour top notes) so the grapefruit is more prominent and decrease the rose. I’d also add a base to increase longevity. This vanishes in about 30 minutes to an hour.